Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Based On A True Story

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join the ever-growing roster of regulars by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Movies that are based on true events are strange beasts. Sometimes they are well-done and respectful of their subjects, other times they only take the bare outline of the events to make their story, changing the details entirely. Who's to say if those changes actually make the movie better or not, but sometimes it "works", and sometimes it doesn't. I'm not even ALWAYS on the side of making those kinds of changes. I remain, as always, on the side of good movies!

Which these mostly are.

127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010) The incredible true story of how one sorta-asshole found himself actually caught between a rock and a hard place, and how he found a sort of redemption. James Franco is flat-out incredible as Aron Ralston, an adventurer who went out one day without telling anyone where he was going, and got his arm caught under a boulder, which he couldn't push off. He spent the title length of time stuck in a random part of the desert with very little water and even less food until he finally had to do the unthinkable. Director Danny Boyle brings this to vibrant, fascinating life, aided by an incredible score and crushing sound design... and of course, Franco's justly lauded performance.

Pain & Gain (Michael Bay, 2013) The incredible true story of three idiot gymrats who extorted an asshole and tricked themselves into believing they were above the law just because the guy was an asshole. And got caught, of course. I'm generally not a fan of Michael Bay's movies, but this is easily the most interesting one he's ever made, and he's helped a lot by the stellar performances of Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The tone of this is so tricky, walking a razor-thin line between pitch-black comedy and all-too-serious thriller, and miraculously mostly succeeding. It's a little too garish for its own good, but it works far better than it has any right to. It's the biggest indictment of rugged masculinity AND The American Dream that I've seen in a long time, from an entirely unexpected source.

The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, 2013) The incredible true story of idiot teens who somehow managed to steal enough clothes, jewelry, and handbags from stars that the stars noticed. And got caught, of course. Coppola's brilliant, perfectly cast movie is a perfect window into the Millennial mindset, where fame and labels and Facebook/Instagram likes and STUFF are more important than anything else, perhaps even actual money. The whole cast is great, but Emma Watson's spot-on, wickedly funny turn is the film's crown jewel. She's so good here, it makes you wish she would do more "character" roles more often.

18 comments:

  1. I haven't seen any of these films but have wanted to see 127hrs for quite a while. I didn't know about Pain&I Gain but I want to now! I wasn't able to see the video of Bling Rin but just from what you wrote, I think I'd like to see this movie now

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    1. So happy I was able to convince you on these movies! Know that Pain & Gain is still very much a Michael Bay film (big and kind of ugly), but it works much better than his films usually do, mostly because the story is SO crazy and the performances are great.

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  2. I've recently seen Pain and Gain for Harris and i was surprised Bay managed to make a movie this good. It's far from great but it's entertaining, engaging and the performances from pretty much everyone there are great

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  3. 127 Hours is justifiably popular this week. Excellent movie. Glad to see Pain & Gain get some love. I hate Michael Bay as much as the next wannabe film buff, but this is a very movie for the reasons you have given, and underrated because of who directed it. The Bling Ring didn't quite work for me. It felt too superficial to say the things you attributed to it.

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    1. I've seen that criticism of The Bling Ring before, but to me that's part of it - it's exactly as superficial as its subjects. A great marrying of form and function, style and substance.

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  4. Yaass I love 127 Hours and The Bling Ring!

    I've heard so many good things about Pain and Gain. One day I'll watch.

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    1. YAY! Pain & Gain is definitely worth a watch.

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  5. Argh! I'm doing terribly this week in what I've seen, which would include all three of these. I've gone back and forth on 127 Hours, I know it's supposed to be good and Franco good in it but it seems more like an endurance test to me. But one day I'll get to it.

    I'll admit that the name Michael Bay on Pain & Gain kept me away from the film but you make it sound better than I expected.

    And the title of The Bling Ring kept me from ever really looking into what it was about. I'll have to look into it further.

    I love films based on fact, that's why I'm so puzzled at how I've missed so many of the picks this week, and since there are so many I simplified my process by choosing the first three that came to mind.

    Frost/Nixon (2008)-In 1977 well known showman David Frost (Michael Sheen) famous for glib interviews with pop stars is suffering a bit of a slump. He hits upon what he thinks is a surefire idea for a ratings grabbing showpiece. He sets out to interview former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella), living in seclusion in San Clemente, CA after resigning in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. Nixon’s agent Swifty Lazar sure that it will be a puff piece encourages Tricky Dicky to take the sizable amount of money offered and run. The series of interviews get off to a rocky start with a loquacious and obdurate Nixon evading any sort of hard questioning but suddenly an unexpected breakthrough changes the course of the sessions into a revealing confessional. Sheen & Langella repeated their roles from the hit Broadway play that was the basis for the film which in turn was based on the actual interviews.

    The Queen (2006)-In 1997 Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) has been on the English throne for 45 years, respected and beloved worldwide. Even more popular, though not within the royal family, is her former daughter-in-law Princess Diana whose marriage to Prince Charles had collapsed in acrimony after a decade of high exposure. She has since become a goodwill ambassador for many worthwhile causes as well as a paparazzi magnet and a bane to her former mother-in-law. When Diana is killed in a car accident caused by those same paparazzi hounding her the queen believes the proper course is a quiet funeral followed by a period of private mourning owing to the fact that Diana is no longer considered a member of the royal family. That turns out to be an almost catastrophic miscalculation that threatens the sovereignty of the throne and which requires new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) to step in and guide her through to avert a disastrous outcome. Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her much lauded performance.

    Inherit the Wind (1960)-Small town teacher Bertram Cates (Dick York-best known as the first Darrin on Bewitched) is arrested for teaching Darwin’s evolutionary theory to his students and put on trial. Representing him gratis is famed attorney Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) as the opposition is spearheaded by blustery litigator Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March) while wryly cynical newspaperman E. K. Hornbecker (Gene Kelly) observes and reports. As passions run high in the oppressive summer heat the local pastor Reverend Jeremiah Brown (Claude Akins) incites the townspeople with fiery rhetoric. A real acting showcase for both leads aided by a beautiful performance from Florence Eldridge (she was March’s spouse in real life) as Brady’s gentle wife who tries to temper his more outrageous behavior. Semi fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey trial wherein famed lawyers Clarence Darrow & William Jennings Bryant fought in court over Darwin’s theory.

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    1. LOL it happens! 127 Hours is only an endurance test for about a five minute period where he has to do the deed. The rest is surprisingly involving and moving (and funny in moments). Pain & Gain is MUCH better than expected, but it's still VERY MUCH a Michael Bay film - big and garish and loud. It's just this time, that actually works! I found The Bling Ring hilarious and sly and enjoyed the heck out of it. The cast is just superb.

      I've seen all of your picks, Inherit The Wind being my favorite. I never understood why people were so down on Frost/Nixon, it's thrillingly entertaining and the two central performances are just stellar. The Queen is kind of an odd beast. I quite like it, and it's kind of fascinating, but I could never fully get into Mirren's performance on the level of "ALL THE AWARDS!" love it received. Still, it's very good and there's no denying she's perfectly suited for the part.

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    2. YA another fan of Inherit the Wind!!! I just love that film and find it endlessly rewatchable, it's in my list of all-time favorite movies. I think it's Tracy's best ever performance and one of Fredric March's top ones as well. His is the more difficult character since he has to find a way to make you sympathize with the pompous windbag he plays and he does. My heart just breaks for him at the end.

      I've seen a version that was done in the 90's with Jack Lemmon & George C. Scott in the roles and while it was very good, and obviously the acting was amazing, it just didn't have the same special gleam.

      There was also a version done in the 80's with Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards, with Jean Simmons in the Florence Eldridge role, that I've long sought and would love to find but I sense even with that cast that the first will remain the gold standard.

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  6. I love that you picked Pain & Gain too!! Its ridiculous! I couldn't delve too far into the real story as it disturbed me. I hate Bay too but this was a rarse one where I could finish the film. The Bling ring was a pleasant surprise too. Did you watch the doc about the real people? Insane!

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    1. HELL YES!

      I did not see the doc about the real Bling Ring - I'm going to have to seek it out now!

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  7. The Bling Ring sounds great, I can't believe I have never heard of it.

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    1. It's really REALLY good. I can't believe you haven't heard of it either - Sofia Coppola's films have all been pretty big deals.

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  8. I absolutely love 127 Hours. Haven't seen The Bling Ring in a while but I remember it being good.

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    1. Yeah, 127 Hours is GREAT. Bling Ring is fun!

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  9. I don't think I can watch 127hours...

    I have seen Bling Ring and ughh...those kids were annoying.

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